The Tar Heels held a signing ceremony Tuesday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center for Mick Macholl — a 5-year-old boy battling high-risk, stage-three neuroblastoma.
A year and a half ago, Mick was paired with the team through a program called Team IMPACT after his family transferred his care over to UNC Children’s Hospital.
“It’s been such a great experience for the guys,” assistant coach Tripp Phillips said. “They enjoy spending time with him in the hospital, and just seeing the attitude that not only he has, but his entire family has toward a terribly difficult situation.
“Just to see a little boy who is literally fighting for his life every day, and doing it with the biggest smile on his face, is just something that is incredibly rewarding.”
Mick’s cancer was discovered after he fell in the bathtub. When his parents took him to the hospital, they found that a softball-sized tumor had ruptured. The doctors at Duke University Hospital cleaned out the tumor, saying nothing else needed to be done.
Two months later, Mick was sick again.
Mick’s mother, Rachel, said the doctors at Duke made a mistake by not giving her son two to four rounds of chemotherapy following his surgery.
“Mistake after mistake was made, and we ended up leaving Duke and coming to UNC,” she said. “And that’s the best decision we ever made.”
While at UNC, Mick has received aggressive chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation. But with only a month left in his treatment, scans revealed his cancer had returned.
With the most aggressive forms of treatment having failed Mick, the Macholl family decided to make one final push to help their son. They are moving to Tempe, Ariz., for a four-to-six week treatment at an integrative medical facility with an evidence-based holistic approach to treatment.
“We were given two choices,” Rachel said. “One was to go home and make him comfortable — and that was not an option that was on our table, because he isn’t ready to quit and neither are we.”
“It’s nothing that’s going to make him feel bad; it will only make him feel better. It will either work or it won’t, but we’ll be together as a family, and after the six weeks we’ll return.”
The family will post updates on his Facebook page, “Mickey’s Fight.”
Senior Jack Murray said Mick made a profound impact on the Tar Heels.
“When you see a young kid crying because a nurse has to change his tubes or something, it just puts things into an entirely different view and makes me appreciate everything I have so much more,” he said.